Can you Say She-hech-ey-a-nu

first ripe strawberries

I first learned the shehecheyanu as a young 20 something, and it quickly became my all time favorite blessing.  My friend and I were strolling through a vineyard on a drive through Napa Valley.  We were giddy New Englanders discovering California and finding great amusement in the paper booties we were required to pull over our shoes during our visit to the vineyard.   The farmers were trying to prevent tourists from tracking in pests as they wandered through.

I can’t remember exactly what my friend experienced as “a first” that day, perhaps her first time seeing grapes actually still attached to the vine.   But something inspired her to say the shehecheyanu, a Jewish prayer to celebrate experiencing something for the first time or for the first time that year.   

Baruch ata adonai elohenu melech ha olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu laz’man hazeh.   Which translates as Blessed are You Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day — (or this particular moment).   

I immediately knew I had to learn this blessing.  We all need tools to pause and celebrate new experiences, even just long enough to utter a sentence.  And this one was so appealing with rhyming words that seem to intertwine.   I remember it took many repetitions in the vineyard and later in the car until I could say it myself.  And since then I haven’t stopped.  Years later, my friend is a rabbi and I am a farmer, so maybe that day was formative.   

The blessing has marked major life events. It was the first thing I said as I stepped foot into my new house and through tears when I first held my newborn son and later my daughter.  But I also say it for much smaller more personal moments like the taste of the first strawberry of the season, or the sight of the ocean after a long time away from the sea.

As a mother it helps me create memories from first foods to first scribbles that might never make the baby book. I remember saying it the first time my son pulled my hair (something I so associate with holding a baby but does not happen during the newborn stage), the first time my daughter pushed into the crawling position or grabbed the spoon away from me.  I said it the first time I saw my son experiencing pride, after he stood a spoon inside a shoe and then sat back and smiled at his creation.

A couple of weeks ago, my son pointed to his baby sister pulling books off a shelf and said, “Look mom, it’s the first time she reached that shelf, say the shehecheyanu.” So we said the blessing together, my son mumbling some parts and belting out the ending, my daughter smiling and swaying to the tune. And then quietly I said it again, this time to celebrate the first time my son initiated a shehecheyanu.  Over the top, perhaps, but I warned you.  I really love this blessing.   

P.S. I did a little youtube shopping and found this rendition, which is quite sweet and much better than I could do.  And for one more post on Jewish parenting on this blog see On Challah


  1. “We all need tools to pause and celebrate new experiences, even just long enough to utter a sentence. ”
    What a wonderful way to look at life, and what a lovely blessing – I hadn’t given much thought to observing small milestones before, but in a way each “first” really is a turning point.

  2. So tender and sweet. Love this.

  3. I found your blog though the Homeshuling blog.
    This is a beautiful post. Thank you for the reminder that every day is blessed. 🙂
    I look forward to reading more.

  4. To learn is to go through many “firsts” along the way. Over here we utter something else, but with same impact. I am having 2 grapevines as “first” this season, which will take almost a year before I can shout “vvbbtthhyyr”, celebrating the first harvest!! ~ bangchik from MALAYSIA

  5. Focusing on the moment is key. Especially the little ones.

    Love the post!

  6. I followed you here from Stacy’s blog
    congrats on the recognition of your blog
    And may I just say ..when I read this I cried
    I have known this feeling of being overwhelmed with
    awe and joy and first times of seeing something, whether it be literally or figurativly
    I will learn this blessing… and visit her blog
    jewish parenting…ah..a fine thing I’m certain

  7. I am amazed to read such wonderful and heartfelt comments on this post. Thanks so much to each of you for taking the time to leave encouraging remarks, it makes a big difference to a new blogger like me. This blogging experience is exceeding my expectations already. I look forward to future interactions!

  8. Thank you for this post! Such a great reminder…

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